Medical professionals occupy a position of personal authority and respect in modern American culture. Most people are aware that medical doctors in California have to attend graduate school and secure a state license to pursue their careers. Getting that license means that a professional was able to pass a background check that looked into their educational records as well as their criminal history.
Those seeing a doctor trust that they will be competent and knowledgeable. They also trust that their doctor will be ethical and will not abuse their position of personal authority for base gratification. Unfortunately, some doctors go into medicine because they relish having power over other people or want access to those in vulnerable circumstances. Others will use their knowledge to do harm outside of work.
What rights do people have when they experience sexual misconduct committed by a licensed physician?
Survivors can report the matter to multiple authorities
Not everyone victimized by a professional speaks up right away. Especially if a patient is a child, they may not feel comfortable going to the police immediately after a physician does something inappropriate. They may instead wait weeks before admitting what happened. The same is true of those hurt in non-professional environments, like women targeted by a doctor with bad intentions on a dating app.
Reporting the matter to the employer or medical facility is often a good start for those who want justice. It is also possible to bring the allegations to the attention of the state licensing board. For many parties, notifying the police will also be important, as doing so can lead to an investigation that might uncover a history of misconduct.
For example, a recent case involving a Colorado doctor who allegedly used medication to drug women he met on dating apps may have had at least 10 victims. It was the statement made by one woman that led to the investigation and the discovery of at least nine other victims. Sadly, such cases are notoriously difficult for the state to prosecute, and survivors of sexual assault often do not get justice from the criminal courts.
However, they may still be in a position to pursue civil litigation against the professional who violated their trust. Lawsuits brought in civil court have lower standards for evidence than criminal charges, which increases someone’s chance of success. In some cases, generating financial penalties for a perpetrator is the best option, as it will serve as a powerful deterrent for that offender in the future.
It can be difficult to speak up and demand justice when someone, like a medical professional, abuses their position of authority. Fighting back, possibly in civil court, can empower survivors and prevent a predatory physician from targeting others in the future.